We are in the midst of an hour long tribute to Ludwig von Mises, one of the great economists of all time.
First Richard Eberling. Dealt with the sweeping conditions of the human condition, money in a market economy, the business cycle and the working of competitive markets. Not a university professor but was the economist for the Austrian Chamber of Commerce (as I was the economist for the Australian Chamber of Commerce). Dealt with policy considerations which required him to invent theory to shed light on what needed to be done given the circumstances of his time. In science, he said, compromise is impossible, but in policy a necessity. His aim was to institute a liberal social order.
His views on deficit spending: during WWI wrote that the spending cannot be shifted to the future. But if in the circumstances of war, better to borrow than to tax to finance deficits that he saw as inevitable. Also understood that taxes should be on consumption rather than on production (as anyone raised in the classical tradition would have understood). (So different from tax policy in our own day and age.)
Sought to overturn two normally accepted ideas that were common during the 1930s. First, that there should be no constraint on public expenditure. Then secondly, also in the 190s, sought to overturn the idea that there are certain entitlements that cannot be reduced. But the aim in all his proposals was towards the long-run destination of a free and liberal society.
Eberling lastly mentions that he himself has just seen into print 1000 additional pages of writing by Mises that he had just discovered in an archive in Russia that have never till now seen the light of day, or at least in English. Published by the Liberty Fund.
Second speaker who has written a biography of Mises (didn’t catch the name). Mises’ importance can be seen that in every year in the last ten years there has been a Mises Institute set up somewhere in the world.
In his books, Mises never published anything that contained any kind of compromise. His first great article was on socialist calculation. How can socialism be more productive than capitalism if there are no prices to determine relative costs of production, a problem with no solution. Mises denied there was any third way. Every third way attempt would remain inherently unstable. Only 100% capitalism was viable. This message resonated with the old liberals but was not embraced by the younger generation who had been raised in a more socialist-leaning environment. They sought a third way that led to an institutional framework and a creed of neo-liberalism. Leave business alone to produce but re-distribute after. Henry Simons of the University of Chicago was the spokesman of this view. Sought forms of regulation and minimum wages. Very non-Misean. Could improve both fairness and efficiency, ideas relentlessly criticised by Mises.
The speaker I might add went ten minutes over time! So against the notion of contract.
Now off to a cocktail party at the residence of the Lord Mayor of Prague.